Saturday, May 23, 2009

God Help Us

A woman writes to First Things (subscription required) to relate a couple of anecdotes from the last presidential election campaign. She tells us that:

During the campaign, a woman in her mid-twenties told me she would not vote for Gov. Sarah Palin because "Palin is so stupid she doesn't even know where Alaska is." I asked what she meant, and she explained that in a TV interview Palin had referred to Alaska as "up North," whereas everyone knows Alaska is "down there with Hawaii south of California." I surmised that her knowledge of geography is based on seeing textbooks depicting the U.S. map with an insert for Alaska and Hawaii placed in the lower left-hand corner, underneath California. When I gently explained where Alaska is, she dismissed it with, "Well, Palin's stupid anyway."

A second voter, a man about thirty, said he would vote for Obama rather than McCain because "Obama has young children so he probably cares more about the future than McCain does."

A Catholic nun was enthusiastically supporting Obama (as was most of her order), and, when I pointed out Obama's positions on abortion issues, she refused to believe it was true on the grounds that such a wonderful man could not possibly support abortion.

God, please save us from ourselves.


Ten Punches

Yesterday I commented on Barack Obama's recent speech which was largely given to criticizing Bush administration policies on homeland security. Within minutes of the conclusion of the President's address former Vice-President Dick Cheney gave a stout defense of those policies in a speech at The American Enterprise Institute. This was quite a remarkable conjunction of events, actually, and The Telegraph U.K.'s Toby Harnden composes a fine analysis of Cheney's riposte titled "The 10 Punches Dick Cheney Landed on Barack Obama's Jaw".

Here's an excerpt from Harnden's essay. He first quotes Cheney and then comments:

[Cheney said] "By presidential decision last month, we saw the selective release of documents relating to enhanced interrogations. This is held up as a bold exercise in open government, honoring the public's right to know. We're informed as well that there was much agonizing over this decision. Yet somehow, when the soul searching was done and the veil was lifted on the policies of the Bush administration, the public was given less than half the truth."

The release of the documents was a nakedly political move by Obama and Cheney called him on it. This passage from Obama's speech today came across as completely disingenuous: "I did not do this because I disagreed with the enhanced interrogation techniques that those memos authorized, and I didn't release the documents because I rejected their legal rationales -- although I do on both counts. I released the memos because the existence of that approach to interrogation was already widely known, the Bush Administration had acknowledged its existence, and I had already banned those methods."

The President's justification for releasing the memos is weak and unconvincing. If the contents of the memos were widely known what was gained by releasing them? And why the reluctance to release the additional memos that Cheney is requesting be released so that the American people will have all the facts before them? The most plausible explanation for Obama's decision is that he thought the memos would embarrass Bush. If that was indeed his motive it certainly makes the President look both tacky and vindictive.

It's worthwhile to read Cheney's other nine punches to the presidential jaw at the link to Harnden's column.


Silver Lining for GOP

It's not uncommon nowadays to hear commentators pronouncing last rites over the dying remnants of the Republican party. The conventional wisdom has it that the country has lurched leftward, electing the most radical congress and administration in history, and all that's left for Republicans is to get on board the train to Euro-socialism or else just go gently into the outer darkness of political oblivion.

Pat Buchanan, however, isn't completely convinced. It's true that the GOP is in a difficult spot and the nation's demographics are definitely not trending in their favor, but there are glimmers of hope that he gleans from a new book by Democrat strategist Chuck Todd. After reciting the dispiriting litany of handicaps, trends and obstacles faced by the GOP in 2012 Buchanan espies a silver lining:

Despite all of the above, John McCain, two weeks after the GOP convention, thanks to the surge in energy and enthusiasm Sarah Palin brought to the ticket, was running ahead of Obama. It was the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the crash and the panic that ensued, which McCain mishandled, that lost him all the ground he never made up. Had the crash not occurred, the election might have been much closer than seven points, which in itself is no blowout.

Second, an astonishing 75 percent of voters thought the country was headed in the wrong direction. Obama won these voters 62 percent to 36 percent. But if the country is seen as headed in the wrong direction in 2012, it will be Obama's albatross.

Third, only 27 percent of voters approved of Bush's performance as of Election Day; 71 percent disapproved. Only Harry Truman had a lower rating, 22 percent, and Democrats were also wiped out in Washington in 1952.

Here is Todd's dramatic point: "With the single exception of Missouri, which barely went for McCain, Obama won every state where Bush's approval rating was below 35 percent in the exit polls, and he lost every state where Bush's approval was above 35 percent." Obama rode Bush's coattails to victory. Had Bush been at 35 percent or 40 percent, McCain might have won. But, in 2012, Obama will not have Bush to kick around anymore.

There's much more at the link to persuade Republicans that it's not yet time to start jumping off bridges, and much, too, to sober Democrats still dancing exuberantly in the end zone after regaining control of both the legislature and the White House. Obama's victory is due largely to factors which won't obtain in 2012.

Since before WWII only one Democrat president, Bill Clinton, has ever been re-elected to a second term, and there's much reason to suspect that Obama will prove to be more like Jimmy Carter than Bill Clinton.